Dan Evans took out the top seed and world number one to make the quarter-finals of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters in what was a well-deserved victory which he has followed up with another exceptional performance to beat the 11th seeded David Goffin to reach the last eight.
I'm always sad to lose here because it's an important one for me. I missed an opportunity to start the clay season in the right way. But that's it... It's not the moment to complain. When you're not able to do the things you had to do on court, then it's not the moment to complain after. Rafa Nadal
The British No.1 defeated his Belgian counterpart from a set down to continue his dream run on the European clay, a surface he has previously struggled on.
He won 5-7 6-3 6-4 claiming the victory on his first match point after toiling for two hours and 46-minutes having fended off four break points at 4-4 in the decider.
While that is great news for British fans, the really big news was the elimination of the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal, who found himself fighting off a very strong challenge from Andrey Rublev.
With the earlier elimination of his main rival, Nadal was well on course to collect his 12th Monte Carlo title, but it seems that his challengers are getting closer as Rublev, seeded six, held his nerve to win their quarter-final clash 6-2 4-6 6-2 after two hours and 32-minutes.
“It’s been such an important tournament during my career,” Nadal, who has only lost six times in the Principality. “I’m always sad to lose here because it’s an important one for me. I missed an opportunity to start the clay season in the right way.
“But that’s it… It’s not the moment to complain. When you’re not able to do the things you had to do on court, then it’s not the moment to complain after.
“The only thing that I can do is go to Barcelona and keep practising, try to fix the things that didn’t work well… Lots of mistakes… A few things that make a big difference on the result and on my game that I wasn’t able to make today.”
Rublev said his first victory over Nadal was among the best of his career but acknowledged the Spaniard was off his game considering he broke him seven times, helped by seven double faults off the Mallorcan’s racket.
“If we look (at) a player like Rafa, the best claycourt player in history, then it’s one of my best victories,” Rublev said.
“But if you look at it from the other side… for sure he didn’t play his ‘good’ level. In his position it’s tough when people expect that… you have to win every time.”
Also out is the defending champion, Italy’s Fabio Fognini who capitulated 6-4 6-3 after one hour and 36-minutes to the 22-year-old Norwegian Casper who is slowly but surely carving out a successful career for himself.
Ironically it was Fognini who was playing the better tennis in the first set only to falter at the important moment leading to a series of poor errors and the eventual loss of a title he won in 2019.
“It was a tough match today,” Ruud said on reaching his second Masters 1000 semi-final. “It has been a great week for me so far. I have beaten good players and today was a very big challenge.
“Fabio is the defending champion here and he plays very tricky. He can hit winners from anywhere and you really need to be ready for anything to come at you. I was happy with the way I was able to stay steady and make him play an extra ball here and there to force an error out of his play. It’s a nice feeling to be in the semi-finals.”
The fourth semi-finalist is Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek fourth seed, who after one hour of play, saw his opponent Spain’s Alejandro Davidovbich Fokina retire with an injury to his left quadricep after losing the first set 7-5.
“I am happy to be at the place where I am right now,” Tsitsipas commented later. “I am happy with my performance today. I think I fought really hard. Even in difficult moments, I was putting out my best tennis.
“I saw he got injured in the middle of the first set and I took advantage of it and tried to make him play. It wasn’t easy, of course. There were certain moments which were a bit tricky and uncertain, but I stayed composed and imposed my game later in the match.
“Alejandro is a player that has been doing really well and has a big game. He proved himself this week in Monte-Carlo, beating good opponents.”
Tsitsipas next opponent is Evans, a player he has great respect for.
“Dan has shown this week how much he has improved on clay,” the Greek added. “We saw him beating the best player in the world, Novak Djokovic. A victory means a lot, it means that he has been playing very well and that he is in great form.”
Evans himself is confident.
“I played good today.,” he said after his Goffin win. “I felt a bit more pressure today to not just win yesterday and give a bad performance today. It wasn’t easy after the match yesterday. I felt really tired afterwards.
“To get back and focus, it was difficult. I am proud of how I came back today, especially with what happened in the first set. I felt my concentration wasn’t great and I am really with coming through. He was being aggressive towards me. At the start, I was having to retrieve. He got on top and I could feel that. He had a little chance at the start of the second set, which I got out of and it just turned it for me, I think.”